Nakuru was the capital of the former Rift Valley Province. Now an independent county, it includes towns like Naivasha, Gilgil, and Molo within its borders. Unfortunately, most people rarely see Nakuru as a travel destination. Instead, they regard it as a weekend getaway or stopover point on their way to or from the capital, Nairobi. As a ‘Naxarian’, born and bred, I intend to show you that there is so much more to this little big town than the party life. Here is almost everything you can do or see while in Nakuru Town.
Everything Natural and Wild
Nakuru Town is proudly the home to the magnificent Lake Nakuru. This lake was once home to the largest population of Flamingos in Kenya after Lake Natron. However, due to climatic changes and reductions in alkaline levels, their numbers have significantly reduced. Yet still, the lake and its park remain as majestic as ever. A visit to Lake Nakuru gives you the chance to spot cheetahs, the occasional lion, wildebeest, zebras, antelopes, gazelles, hundreds of bird species, hyenas, and the abundant baboons. Unknown to many, Lake Nakuru National Park also has a few waterfalls, which you can visit on foot to enjoy the clean cold waters.
Another fantastic, yet poorly known natural spot is Lake Solai, a few kilometres from the CBD. Lake Solai is a salt-water lake that recently recovered from the threat of extinction through the introduction of fish. You can now enjoy boat rides, have a picnic, and go on nature trails at the lake. Other exciting destinations nature lovers will love in Nakuru County include the Menengai Crater, Mount Longonot, Lakes Elementaita, Naivasha, Baringo and Bogoria, and, of course, Hell’s Gate National Park of the Lion King fame.
Did you know that Nakuru Town exists in a geographical space believed to be approximately 20 million years old? As a result, it is home to a great deal of history. You can observe and experience this in different parts, including the Hyrax Hill Museum. Hyrax Hill lies about 8 kilometres from Nakuru CBD. Here, the national museum holds skeletal remains of people believed to be no less than 3,000 years old. According to the descriptions found within the museum, a freshwater lake extended across the Rift Valley from Nakuru to Naivasha. The waters might have caused the prehistoric people to move towards the hill that could have been an island at the time. If you enjoy archaeology and everything ancient, then Hyrax Hill Museum will tickle your fancy. As a bonus, the site also has other available activities, including picnic sites, nature trails, a tortoise pit, and amazing views of Lake Nakuru. Other historical sites worth checking out in Nakuru include Lord Egerton’s Castle, Kariandusi Diatomite Site and Museum, and the Hell’s Gate Canyons.
This is my favourite part of Nakuru. You get to experience art in all its glorious forms – from performed art to displayed pieces. If you enjoy this kind of art, then the Nakuru Players Theatre is a necessary visit. The theatre, lying between Nuru Palace and Bontana Hotel, hosts all theatrical activities from musicals, short stage acts, stand-up comedy to poetry. The theatre opens and operates every day, and when you want to escape the noise of the corporate world for a small dose of creativity, it is your go-to spot.
When it comes to paintings, carvings, and any tangible art, my top pick is the Maasai Market in Nakuru. The market consists of approximately 30 small stalls that hold artisans of all kinds, from weavers, to bead workers and then painters. The market holds an impressive collection of authentic Kenyan made art that you can never seem to get enough of. Initially, the target market was European and American tourists. However, recently, the vibrant artistic spirit that always hovers around this spot has lured domestic tourists as well. You can stop and buy a piece from the artists to support their excellent work. Consider also visiting the Mwakar Art Gallery and the KraftyArtz Workshop.
What is a trip to Nakuru Town without checking out the various eating places? Unfortunately, you will not be able to enjoy all of them, especially if you are visiting. However, you can still jot them down so that you can try out each one every time you visit. Here is a simple list of the best places grouped by the kind of food they offer:
Contemporary Fast Food
- Java Coffee House West Side Mall and Midtown
- Chicken Baristo
- KFC West Side Mall
- Gilani’s Restaurant
- Culture Mambo
- Pearl Café
- Ipiz Restaurant
- Jikoni’s Restaurant
- Lennz Pizza
- Tipsy Restaurant
- Chicken Baristo
- Merica Hotel
You can visit Nakuru Town as a shopping destination, especially if you are on the hunt for second-hand items and fresh foods. Admittedly, there are cheaper shopping destinations elsewhere in Kenya, but Nakuru has a large variety to offer. You can visit any of several supermarkets in the town, including Naivas, Tusky’s, Stagematt and Woolmatt, all of which have two or more branches in the town. If you are in search of brand new clothes, then the various boutiques and clothes shops will suffice. These include Marpet Boutique, Victory Men’s, Ladies and Children Wear and Maya Emporium, to mention a few. The Nakuru food market is also quite impressive, with all varieties of fruits, vegetables, and cereals.
When you have toured and shopped around Nakuru, you will need a place to lay down and rest for another day. Luckily, Nakuru has a long list of available accommodation facilities that fit into a wide range of budgets. Whether you like outdoor camping sites or fancy hotel suites, Nakuru has you covered. Some of the typical accommodation facilities in Nakuru include:
- Merica Hotel
- Bontana Hotel
- Cathay Hotel
- Ole-Ken Hotel
- Taidy’s Suites
- Sarova Woodlands Hotel
- Vienna Woods Hotel
- Milele Resort
- Jumuia Guest House
- Nuru Palace
- Jarika County Lodge
There are several campsites, cottages, and Airbnb options available in Nakuru as well.
Meditation and Spiritual Retreat
Lastly, Nakuru can easily be your other go-to destination when you are seeking calm and quiet. There are several religious retreats open to the public across the county. Some of them are one-day visiting destinations, but most offer accommodation for long-distance visitors at a subsidized rate. They offer you the chance to disconnect from the busy and noisy world and get in touch with God through prayer and fasting for as long as you want. A few examples include the Mizpah Prayer Centre, Subukia Shrine, ACK Jehovah Shammah Prayer Centre, and the St. Theresa’s Prayer House.
Nakuru Town has more to offer than the much advertised weekend party life. It is an all-around travel destination with activities to suit different types of travellers. The next time you plan to travel through Kenya, do not overlook this small town that has excellent potential.